10 Steps to Managing Employees Older Than You

by / ⠀Startup Advice / March 6, 2012

Business owners are getting younger and younger, it seems. At the same time, unfortunately, many of our parent’s generations are facing job loss due to layoffs, a receding economy, or changes in trends. Interestingly, these young entrepreneurs are now providing jobs to the hard working, dedicated workers of older generations.

As the head of a company and a leader of the team, the entrepreneur has the responsibility of bringing harmony among employees, regardless of age. However, being a young captain of a ship full of seasoned business people can be quite challenging. Here are 10 ways emerging business men or women can make it happen:

  1. Seek to Understand Differences

As Stephen Covey’s fifth of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People begs: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood,” it’s critical for a leader, especially one of limited experience or wisdom, to learn the differences of their employees. The knowledge of these differences is the key to understanding what your employees need from you as a leader to assist them in performing at their highest potential.

  1. Leverage the Wisdom and Experience of Your Team

One way of warming up to older employees who are uneasy to work subordinately under you is to get them involved in the company beyond the duties of their job description. Everyone loves a little stroke of the ego, and asking for their advice or opinion is sure to make them feel appreciated and needed. You’ll also gain their respect because they’ll appreciate your good sense.

  1. Be Confident and Stand Firm

Nothing makes employees more uneasy than 1) The insecurity of their jobs and 2) The insecurity of their bosses. Do you and your team a favor by having a backbone and making confident decisions as a leader.

  1. Consider a Double Mentorship

Depending on age, some of your employees may benefit from being taught about new technology or trends. You also may be able to learn from the experience of one of your seasoned employees in one way or another. Exchanging mentorship may be a great way to connect with employees and share skills. However, be careful not to overstep boundaries by becoming “buddy buddies” with any one particular employee, or it may present complications later. Keep the relationship at a professional business exchange and it could be mutually rewarding.

  1. Communicate Openly

An effective leader, regardless of age, will acknowledge and address the concerns of their employees. You may consider acknowledging that despite your young age, you hope to manage a company that provides a great place to work for everyone, and perhaps even welcome any suggestions on how you can be a better leader. The humility and honesty will put your employees at ease.

  1. Generously Show Appreciation

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs included esteem as one of the fundamentals of human needs. Esteem presents the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others, and is certainly important in the workplace. To gain the respect of your employees as their younger boss, show your appreciation. Thank them, compliment them, and acknowledge them for what they do consistently, and they will give back their appreciation to you by being an outstanding employee.

  1. When Addressing Areas of Concern

When discussing the area of concern, remember to treat each employee with the same high level of respect and appreciation while being specific about what you expect of them.

  1. Give Up Trying to be Popular

Instead of focusing on being liked and accepted by everyone, turn your attention on building a company where everyone likes to work and customers like to do business with.

  1. Don’t be Intimidated

Although you may be young, there’s a reason you’re at the top level in the company, and every employee who works for the company needs to understand and accept that and give you the respect that you deserve. Don’t be intimidated, you rock at your job!

  1. Set the Example

Remember, if you want your employees you respect you, you have to respect them. If you don’t want them to walk all over you, then don’t walk all over them. If you don’t want them to walk around with a big ego, then lose the ego. It’s simple. Of course, older employees may discredit your experience or assume immaturity because you’re young which can be very frustrating, but you can prove to yourself and to your team that you have what it takes to lead the pack, because you do!

See also  Empowering Your Sales Team: A Practical Guide

While it can be challenging to manage a team of older employees, it can also be a very rewarding experience for both the business owner and employee.  With a little effort and practice, entrepreneurs can continue to successfully provide jobs to hard workers of all generations and ages.

Sara Schoonover works as VP of TicketKick, an innovative legal service that helps drivers contest traffic tickets through the mail in California. At 23, she holds the second to the top position within the company and is the youngest of 8 employees.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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